You are a Bombay boy but don't seem influenced by Bombay commercial cinema at all. What were the films/filmmakers you grew up with and were influenced by?
Growing up in Bombay, I watched anything that came to the cinema. That included everything Amitabh and Feroz Khan ever did, B Subash films like Tarzan and Dance Dance. I loved Star with Kumar Gaurav. But I watched the Ramsay Brothers and some sleazy Malayali Adult Films as well. It's only when I went to film school in the US, I started watching other things, Japanese New Wave films, experimental cinema and I discovered a lot of Indian film I hadn't ever seen before,
Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, G Aravindan. So my influences are really mixed.
John and Jane was a unique mix of documentary and fiction. Does Miss Lovely also tread the same line?
Miss Lovely was meant to be a documentary of a real C grade film shoot, but because of all the illegal sex scenes, nobody wanted to speak on camera so it never happened. It is semi-fictional.
From a serious contemporary issue you seem to be going back in the recent history in Miss Lovely. How much is the period and setting important here?
Miss Lovely begins in the mid 1980s, during our socialist era and ends in 1992, at the cusp of India's globalization. That's a period where more things changed overnight than they had in almost fifty years. We went from black and white Doordarshan to hundreds of channels in such a short span. The biggest effect was on the media. So period and history is really important to this film. Miss Lovely is also about the end of celluloid and the beginning of digital cinema. It really is a film about transition, even though on the surface it's just about two brothers who make sleazy films.
Is Miss Lovely entirely something out of your imagination? Or based on real events and happenings?
I had met many amazing characters in the lower depths of the industry, I had so many real stories. So I ended up working them into the semi-fictional screenplay of Miss Lovely. There are a lot of real things, places and people in the film, so in that sense, it's not like a typical fiction film.
Is it inspired by the Ramsay Brothers, the horror doyens in Bollywood? Or Kanti Shah and his brother?
It doesn't have anything to do with either the Ramsays or Kanti and Kishan Shah. The Ramsays aren't even C grade, they are serious about their Horror. And Kanti & Kishan are people I know, they are really everyday guys. Not very dramatic characters at all. But it is interesting how many of the filmmakers that work in this space are brothers. The first guys to make commercial porn in the US were also brothers, the Mitchell Brothers. So the idea of two brothers is fictional. But the Duggal brothers are both based on real filmmakers that made sleaze films at various points in the 1980s. And the people in their entourage, the actresses, the distributors etc are based on real people that still work in the industry.
Have you been an admirer of the C Grade horror film?
No, the films themselves are pretty horrible although there are some accidentally beautiful moments here and there. But I'm an admirer of the rebellious spirit in which the films are made.
Do you like horror genre? Any horror movies which you like?
I don't like Indian horror films much, they borrow too much from British Hammer horror films and are too clunky. I prefer my horror Italian style, filmmakers like Dario Argento, who make very lavish and atmospheric cinema.
Would you attempt to ever make a horror film?
Not really, unless I can do something really different with it.
The short IMDB synopsis one has been reading is intriguing. Is the film about the industry, about the genre or about individuals and their relationships?
It's kind of about all of the above.
Tell us about the reason for casting Nawaz and a bit about your other actors...
I didn't know who Nawaz was. I just heard he had done some small parts as a character actor, so I screen tested him. I didn't want anyone recognizable . He was absolutely perfect for the part— he just was Sonu Duggal, there couldn't be another. He had never done a primary role before. He is just one of the many neglected actors with amazing talent in this country, so it's time he gets his due. All the actors in the film were people who I had no idea about, but they just fit the
script. They just were the characters themselves, so they had to be in the film.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print
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